W South Beach Rating: 5.0 Pearls
The stunning 312-room W South Beach -- located on the beach, on the northern outskirts of South Beach -- blends cute comforts, intricate design (that spares no expense), and flawless service. Large, modern rooms; terraces angled to overlook the ocean; elegant landscaping around the pool; a freshly-opened spa -- the W tops many of the Miami greats.
The Resort at Fisher Island Club Rating: 5.0 Pearls
Fisher Island is unlike any other hotel in Miami. Its 45 guest rooms, all suites, are located among the homes of the super-rich on a lush, private island that's a 10-minute ferry ride from the Miami mainland. It doesn't have the party scene or the fashion-forward design elements found at some of Miami's other leading luxury hotels, but its history, charm, beautiful golfing greens and tennis courts, formal yet personable service, and serene beachfront all work to achieve a sophisticated sense of luxury. It's a superb choice for couples and families looking for something special.
The Setai Miami Beach Rating: 5.0 Pearls
Paradise doesn't come cheap. Striking but sober mood-lit design; impeccable service; huge, immaculate rooms; three pools, each a different temperature; and a prime, beachside location make the Setai one of the best hotels in Miami. Though their restaurants are more about design than food, several of Miami's best restaurants are just half a block away.
Four Seasons - Miami Rating: 5.0 Pearls
An astounding, immaculate property that lives up to the brand -- super-accommodating service, large rooms, a great rooftop pool overlooking Biscayne Bay, and the Sports Club/LA on-site (one of the best gyms in Miami). Though the rooms are a bit outdated, it's a premier choice for Miami's relatively boring business district.
Acqualina Resort & Spa Rating: 4.5 Pearls
Four pools, great Italian cuisine, a luxurious spa, 97 huge, modern rooms, and some of Miami's most attentive service -- this is family-oriented Sunny Isles' best hotel. The rooms don't quite match One Bal Harbour's, but the Acqualina's beach is far better (especially with its free cabanas). For families especially, this a superb luxury pick.
The Tides South Beach Rating: 4.5 Pearls
A beautifully designed hotel with pomp-free service at all levels -- from housekeeping to porters to private designated assistants. The Tides brings rarely seen substance to the price tag. Though the hotel lacks direct beach access and the small pool is less than breathtaking, the huge, immaculate rooms more than compensate. Speaking of which, every single one of their enormous rooms has a wonderful view of the ocean and deep soaking tubs.
Fontainebleau Miami Beach Rating: 4.5 Pearls
A 1954 mainstay, the 1,504-room Fontainebleau is a sprawling Art Deco complex built by iconic architect Morris Lapidus that stretches over several city blocks. After a $1 billion face-lift, the 1,504-room Fontainebleau just reopened in 2008. Despite its sexy ads, this family- and convention-focused hotel is in less-hopping Mid-Beach. Still, it's hard to top its nine pools or phenomenal spa.
Carillon Hotel & Spa Rating: 4.5 Pearls
With some of the most beautifully decorated (and largest) guest rooms in Miami, a beachfront location, a great spa, and a huge fitness center with a rock-climbing wall and dozens of daily classes, Canyon Ranch is a great choice for a healthy vacation -- provided you're not also looking for nightlife or a happening pool scene.
Mandarin Oriental, Miami Rating: 5.0 Pearls
Located on beautiful Brickell Key, this beachless island resort offers a mix of serenity and high design. Inside its soaring lobby, warm golden-brown floors, beautiful artwork, huge windows looking out over Biscayne Bay, and soft instrumental music are a welcome alternative to loud, clubby hotel lobbies. Rooms are equally creatively designed with priceless views from up high. The Mandarin also sports a phenomenal spa, a first-rate gym, and excellent (if pricey) restaurants like Agua.
The Ritz-Carlton Bal Harbour, Miami Rating: 4.5 Pearls
Sure, it boasts a 10,000-square-foot Guerlain Spa, $4 million worth of modern art, and some of Miami's grandest rooms. But the Regent, which opened in 2008, brings a low-key, Four Seasons-type luxury to South Florida. It's more romantic and understated than the nearby Acqualina, but keep in mind: It's 20 minutes from South Beach. Trade-offs, trade-offs.